One of world's youngest countries lacks the resources and personnel to execute social development programs
Due largely to the high level of poverty only about 20 percent of preschool children are enrolled in school in Timor-Leste. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta has appealed to international partners to invest in Church organizations and civil society groups stating that the government has sufficient funds but lacks the necessary resources to execute social development programs.
“Please do not invest in government programs because the government's budget is already large and there is no execution capacity,” Horta said during a national-level meeting for children’s rights in the Catholic-majority nation.
The national event themed “Hear Our Child's Language to Ensure and Realize Our Rights” was organized by the Institute for Child Rights Defenders at Dili on March 1, the Dili Weekly reported.
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Citing sufficient fund availability but a lack of resource personnel, Horta urged the participants to look for alternative strategies to facilitate the implementation of government projects in Timor-Leste.
“It would be better to see another strategy directly with partners of agencies such as UNICEF and others in partnership with NGOs and Church Institutions," Horta said.
Horta also urged the participants to not spend any more money on workshops and meetings on democracy stating that “democracy is sufficient for Timor-Leste.”
He urged the benefactors and support groups to invest “only in rural development to improve the lives of the people.”
Children, government officials, NGOs, church institutions, and other dignitaries also attended the meeting.
Tetsuya Kimura, Japan’s ambassador to Timor-Leste highlighted the various levels of cooperation that both nations have especially in the education, health, and women empowerment sectors.
"We are committed to working with the people of East Timor with the intention of creating a society where children can be safe and play roles in creating a safe and prosperous future in this country," Kimura said.
According to UNICEF, only 20 percent of preschool-aged children in Timor-Leste are enrolled in school. Nearly 37 percent of rural youth (15-24) are illiterate, compared to just six percent in urban areas, and around 70 percent of grade-one students don’t meet basic learning outcomes.
Bilal Aurang Zeb Durrani, the UNICEF representative to Timor-Leste voiced his appreciation towards Horta for prioritizing the safety, health, and well-being of children.
Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world with its estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per capita amounting to around US$1,560 in 2019, according to the World Bank. It also ranks 141 among 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index for 2020.
About 42 percent of the country’s estimated 1.3 million people live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Program. UN data from 2018 showed about 32 percent of the population is illiterate.
UNICEF data shows that around 66 percent of basic education schools do not have functioning toilets and around 40 percent of basic education schools do not have drinking water.
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